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Jax Hts. stores on 74th St. blast pedestrian plaza

Several business owners and community leaders gathered to protest the pedestrian plaza on 37th Road between 47th Street and Broadway. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

Merchants on 74th Street in Jackson Heights say the city’s creation of a pedestrian plaza in September by their shops has hurt business and may force them to close.

The plaza, on 37th Road between 74th Street and Broadway, was drawn up by the city to create an area where pedestrians can relax.

But business owners said the plaza has given them headaches and their sales have dropped by as much as 60 percent.

“People try to find parking and they leave,” said Raj Bhalla, who owns two cell phone stores in the area and estimated 40 parking spaces were eliminated by the plaza. “They can’t do business with me because they can’t find parking.

“Traffic flow is dead,” he said. “It’s like a ghost town.”

Bhalla said the plaza forced him to cut a full-time employee’s hours down to part-time.

Tsering Phuntsok, who owns a newsstand, said his business also has dropped by about 60 percent.

Shauket Ali, owner of Kabob King, said the whole block is suffering.

“They blocked the street and 37th Road is the main hub of Jackson Heights,” Ali said.

The business owners said they met with City Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who was a supporter of the pedestrian plaza. The councilman told them the plaza was in the third month of a six-month trial period and that he would reconsider his position after that, they said.

Dromm could not be reached for comment.

The business owners said they were not against a public plaza, but it would be ideal in another location.

“If they want to put a pedestrian plaza, why don’t they make it in a residential area, not in a commercial area?” asked Ali.

Shiv Dass, president of the Jackson Heights Merchant Association, said the business owners were never allowed to give their views on the plaza.

“They did not consult the merchants on this block,” he said. “Businesses are suffering. People have to pay rent. People have to pay employees.”

Dass said South Asian business owners helped the area prosper and the city is undermining their businesses with the plaza.

“We made this place a prime area, but now they’re trying to kill us,” he said. “The bottom line is they have to move this plaza. They tried the experiment. The experiment failed.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz at 718-260-4573 or at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com.

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Reader Feedback

Laura from Jackson Heights says:
That's ridiculous. These shop owners have NO commitment to the neighborhood. The landlord refuses to let a BID form, and there is trash everywhere (in this particular area) from visitors who drive in from Long Island only to shop. The area is packed. Many store owners on this street do NOT sweep or clean outside their stores, as everyone else does, and the landlord won't pay for the John Doe Fund to come clean. This area is an eyesore, and the plaza (when greened) will help. The article should be about the landlord and what a mess this street is.
Jan. 26, 2012, 10:08 am
Laura from Jackson Heights says:
And a ghost town? There are at least a dozen people walking the block (besides the protesters) in that picture and that's a slow moment. And you only see about 3/4 of the block there.
Jan. 26, 2012, 10:10 am
SAC from Jackson Heights says:
It's a common problem in JH, retail store owners who feel as if they make the rules: merchandise displayed all over sidewalks, sound systems blasting music out onto street, poor sanitation. (certainly not all - some owners are exemplary) . It's a real turn-off and I don't want to shop in places that look like that. ( I don't even like to go outside sometimes - it's a sensory overload.) This issue is exactly why JH remains stagnated. Diversity yes, but store owners need to know that they need to assimilate to the fact that there in NYC now.
Jan. 26, 2012, 10:52 am
razi from jackson heights says:
Jackson Heights is basically business and commercial area. All over the world people know about Jackson Heights, not only from tristate area, people come all over US and all over the world. With this 37th Rd closure, people are not coming. South Asian community put Jackson Heights on the map, we work hard last 20 years or so. Business owners are losing money, workers are losing jobs, city is losing revenue and taxes. This unnamed plaza has to go some where else at residential area
Jan. 26, 2012, 1:38 pm
Ruhul from Jackson Heights says:
Opinion is like "Arm Pit", everybody has one and it stinks sometimes.While everyone has the right to express their opinoin, it does not change the facts. And the fact is, 37th Rd(between 73 & 74 st) has become a giant "Trash Bin"already(I wonder what it will be when greened) , a safe heaven for Bums and Homelesses, Some of them are even responding to their Natural Call in the middle of it so that they don't have to look for Bathroom. Do you call it Beautification? Look, i own a business here and i live right here in Jackson Heights like most business owners do, I vote here and pay tax here too. The City and the local elected officials sould realize that how much damage this closure is doing to this businesses, the families and employees who depend on it and most importantly to city and state's revenue. Forget all these, how about inconveniences and traffic congestion on 73rd & 75th st? how about wasting hours to find parking? Have you ever thought about it? i don't thisnk so. Look, the merchants here neither has anything against the plaza nor you dear residents and supporters of the plaza, we just don't want right here on 37th Rd(between 73 & 74 st) what has been the main entrance to the business area . I suggest to move it to the residential area, we will support it and help if necessary. So may i please urge the residents to keep your opinion and anger against the merchants to youself.
Jan. 26, 2012, 10:32 pm
S. Herrera from J H says:
I have to change my doctor in 74 street and 37th av. because the parking is crazy, the drivers are so slow thing they ridding a camel, and the place smells like piles of garbage, in winter time you don't feel it but in summer do not go near around there. I was waiting for a parking once and one guy came close to my car and almost force me to leave the parknig space, probably to his believes woman are not allow to drive. I hope they learn how to behave and respect other people and please be clean clean clean...
Jan. 31, 2012, 3:29 am
S. Herrera from J H says:
and closing the street to put tables por people to relax, Mayor you are doing a big mistake, who wants to go to the smelly place. Move those tables to a nice place, where we can enjoy a good ice cream, and relax read a book without smelly and noise people
Jan. 31, 2012, 3:33 am
SAC from jACKSON HEIGHTS says:
South Asians did not put JH on the map. And it is not a a business and commercial area, it is a community. Remember that when you insist you know better that the rest of JH/
Feb. 14, 2012, 6:49 pm
Rob from NY says:
I always avoided this part of Jackson Heights because with all the crowded sidewalks, I was worried about my kids getting pushed into the street and hit by a car.

I used to feel the same about Times Square, but now with the new pedestrian plazas, I take my kids there all the time.

I'll be coming through there on the subway on the way to Citifield. Usually I eat at the ballpark or in Flushing, but now I'll try 37th Road.
March 12, 2012, 10:34 pm

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